Inevitable final matchup, Barbe, West Monroe continue rivalry

Published 8:39 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

SULPHUR — Barbe and West Monroe have built a massive athletic postseason rivalry over three decades.

One of the earliest was the 1993 baseball quarterfinals followed by their first run to the state final in 1999.

In the last few years it has heated up, and at 5:30 p.m. today they will meet in the nonselect Division I state championship game for the third time in four seasons.

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“It is what high school sports is all about,” said Barbe head coach Glenn Cecchini said. “It has been a rivalry for a long time.

“I remember the first time we played, we beat them in 1993 in the quarterfinals at the state tournament. That is 31 years. It has been more than a few years. To me, it is the greatest public school rivalry in the state.”

No. 1 Barbe (34-6) is going for its 13th state championship.

“We respect everyone and fear no one,” Cecchini said. “We are the defending state champions, and we take that to heart.

“We are going to battle; we are never going to give and we are never going to give up.”

It would be hard to beat last year’s matchup. No. 2 West Monroe (30-8) entered the final inning of the nonselect Division I state championship game with a three-run lead, but the Bucs manufactured a massive nine-run rally, including Donovan Lasalle’s grand slam, to win 10-4.

The schools’ rivalry goes beyond the diamond. There have been several football playoff games, including the “Miracle on McNeese Street” in 2012 when the Bucs overcame a 27-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Rebels 49-48 in the semifinals.

West Monroe is making its fourth consecutive state finals appearance. It beat St. Amant 9-6 in the 2022 final and lost 5-0 to Barbe when Gavin Guidry pitched a two-hit shutout.

“I think they are really good,” Cecchini said of the Rebels. “They are the No. 2 seed for a reason.

“They have been winning it or playing for it for quite a while. They are one of the top programs in the state, no doubt about it. Year in and year out they are in the state tournament and so are we. It is such a great rivalry. They are a winning program. They win championships.”

Barbe is coming off a 4-1 win over No. 13 Benton in Thursday’s semifinals. The Bucs broke open a scoreless game with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, including a two-run home run by Owen Galt.

Diego Corrales pitched a complete game with six strikeouts and no walks, leaving the Bucs with the perfect situation of two fresh starters at their disposal in Galt, a senior, and freshman Lawton Littleton. Both have pitched a shutout in the playoffs this season.

“We feel good,” Cecchini said of his pitching staff. “Both (Galt and Littleton) can throw seven innings, so we have two guys that can throw 14 innings if need to be.”

West Monroe beat No. 3 Sam Houston 7-1 on Thursday behind a complete game, 10-strikeout performance from Andrew Ferguson.